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WEEK OF PRAYER: Sharing a ‘Jesus dream’ in Salt Lake

[SLIDESHOW=50435,50436,50438]EDITOR’S NOTE: The annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 3-10, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering provide support for missionaries who serve on behalf of Southern Baptists across North America. With a goal of $70 million, this year’s offering theme is “Sending Hope.” Luis and Beatriz Soto are Week of Prayer missionaries for the North American Mission Board. For more information, visit anniearmstrong.com. To read about other 2019 featured missionaries, visit anniearmstrong.com/missionaries-overview.

SALT LAKE CITY (BP) — Luis Soto traveled across Latin America teaching and mobilizing in eight nations during a seven-year span with Wycliffe. His missionary journey eventually led him and his family to Salt Lake City where he has launched a new church.

“We arrived here to preach at a conference for a week,” Soto said. But he took note of the need in Utah, a state with a majority population of Latter-day Saints (LDS) or Mormons — and an overwhelming need for more Bible-believing, Gospel-proclaiming churches.

As a Puerto Rican whose native tongue is Spanish, Soto focuses primarily on the Hispanic population in and around Salt Lake City.

“In Salt Lake City, 97 percent of people are lost,” Soto said. “In this state, just 2 percent is evangelical Christian.”

Soto has lived in Salt Lake City since 2013 with his wife Beatriz and daughter Eliana. He and Beatriz are 2019 Week of Prayer missionaries for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions.

“In a place where it seems like everyone is Mormon, it’s easy to feel alone,” Soto said.

“When you come here to become a church planter, you need the call of God because it’s not easy. It’s a hard place.”

When he arrived in Salt Lake City, Soto became pastor of an established church, Iglesia Bautista de Roca de los Siglos — Rock of the Centuries Baptist Church. He launched Iglesia Bautista Gracia Eterna — Eternal Grace Baptist Church — a few years later. In both congregations, he has engrained a vision of training disciples who engage in the mission of reaching Salt Lake City.

“Hispanic people come from California and Mexico for the American dream,” Soto said. One of his goals is to show them their need for “the Jesus dream” and the need for salvation.

Rather than seeking to grow a large church, Soto aspires to see a church planting movement across the metro area to reach the lost.

The difficulties facing the Hispanic community, however, can make evangelism and discipleship difficult. Many must work two or three jobs to make ends meet, leaving little time for other activity. So, Soto invests in their lives through one-on-one discipleship by meeting in coffee shops, at the park and in homes.

“I see the fruit for the Hispanics in this community,” Soto said. “There’s new leadership, new church planters and new teachers, but it is a sacrifice. This is a sacrificial work day after day after day.”

Soto has seen several families being changed by the power of the Gospel. Entire families start to embrace the work of the church: parents, youth and children.

“People have the enthusiasm for going and making other disciples,” Soto said. “I see our church making more and more disciples,” which he notes leads to starting new churches.

Despite his church members’ hectic schedules, Soto has initiated an in-depth discipleship group that he leads like a college class in training church leaders and future church planting missionaries. They study the Bible and read books on theology and ministry together.

Now, men like Jose Castillo are prepared to be sent out as missionaries themselves. While it can be difficult to send out his co-laborers in the Gospel, Soto knows that it is necessary.

“The sensation is joy, and you cry,” he said. “But you have a joy because this is the purpose for a church: This is the Great Commission, ‘Go and make disciples.'”

Soto is on his way to seeing churches fuel a Gospel movement in Salt Lake City. Gifts to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering help to make that possible by providing resources to North American missionaries. Learn more at anniearmstrong.com.

Watch a video about Luis Soto: